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DAR Hip Hop: Does Kanye's The College Dropout Hold Up?

By @SpeedontheBeat

The title of this article can be construed as a silly question that could be answered with the words "yes, you fool. Stop drinking brain bleach." But, we're not here for simple answers. Instead, I want to challenge you. I want you to remove all the nostalgia from your brain.

Remove Stacy Dash leaving Kanye at the airport and Lauryn Hill and/or Syleena Johnson singing "wheeeen it alll...it all falls down." Remove Kanye spitting literally through the wire. Remove that time you probably chanted "somebody tell these niggas who Kanye West is." Does this album hold up as a classic or are we just being nostalgic about a decent album? We will look at this album through three lenses: the production, the bars, and the question "what makes this album so damn special anyway?"

For starters, we've got to talk the samples, as they're a heavy part of the album. Kanye brought forth (rather, he furthered along) a newer type of sampling. Instead of just grimy cuts or sampling the entire track (hi Diddy), he instead opted for components of the song and pitched them to high heaven. This gave us the now-familiar "chipmunk" sample. Yes, I know that RZA was doing something similar first. But, without Kanye touching it, we wouldn't have had everyone and their mom pitching tracks and having Alvin, Simon and Theodore singing Luther Vandross (for better or worse). 

So, do Kanye's sample choices hold up? Yeah. From pulling "Distant Lovers" into a trippy loop with "Spaceship" to sampling Blackjack for "Never Let Me Down" to sampling the aforementioned Luther for "Slow Jamz," the samples hold up well in this era of bass-heavy trap anthems. They do, however, show their age if only because you've heard chipmunk soul samples so much in the mid-2000s. That's not a slight on Kanye, just the sound itself. 

After the samples, we've got to talk Kanye's bars. 

I'll be honest: I was never that big a fan of Kanye the rapper. I thought he was cool and had some funny lines (such as "mayonnaise-colored Benz/I push miracle whips") and some thought-provoking imagery. But, I always felt his talent was best suited for producing and mixing his own shit versus doing that and still outrapping all of y'all. So, do his bars age as well as the production? 

Yes and no. I mean, it's a topical album. It's classic, but it's still steeped in early-to-mid-2000s tropes. Additionally, Kanye usually manages to rap just well enough that he doesn't get eaten alive by his guest stars. No one gets fully outshined. He complements them well and vice versa.

However, even with that said, it's the ability for listeners to relate to Kanye's stories of getting his come-up on by any means (specifically rapping, producing, and potentially shortening the register up) that keeps this from being a complete nostalgia trip. Anyone can relate to Kanye West at this point. That makes it easier to digest some of the more "ehhhh"-worthy moments, bar-wise. It also makes the album as classic as it is.

The album is classic and great because of the fact that people can see themselves in this era of Kanye West: a young underdog backpacker trying to get on and happens to come across his pot of gold. We wanted him to succeed throughout the project, even if the College Dropout was, in fact, a dropout. We needed him to win because, in some ways, if Kanye was able to win, we would be able to win at our 9-to-5's or our moments where we shouldn't be rapping about anything except for Jesus. On top of that, even if some of the production feels a bit dated/over-used, it's still some classic production. I'll bet you five bucks that you'll start humming along with the samples just as much as you do with the actual song. 

So, does The College Dropout hold up? I already told you "yes." Does every aspect of it hold up? No, it doesn't. But, is it still a classic album? Yeah, I'd say so. 

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